SARASOTA, Fla. - Dwight Smith Jr. singled today in the fifth inning, came out of the game for a pinch-runner and received a nice ovation.
He left on a low note by his standards.
Smith hit two more home runs today to give him five in 12 games. Both balls cleared the fence in center field, an impressive display of power from a player who’s hit two homers in 104 plate appearances in the majors and had six last summer in Triple-A.
“I’ve just been working on it,” said Smith, who hugged his father, former outfielder Dwight Smith Sr., behind the bullpen area after leaving the game. “I felt like this past off-season something clicked and I’ve just been pretty much been working on what I was working on toward the end of last season.
“I’ve pretty much always done what I’ve done. I’m just trying to stay short. That’s all I try to do, just stay short and have my plan and stick to it and not chase the pitcher’s pitch. That’s always been the thing I’ve been going to.”
Smith didn’t join the Orioles until they acquired him from the Blue Jays on March 8 for international signing bonus slots. He’s batting .325 and launching baseballs impressive distances.
“God always has a plan and I always kept my faith and I’ve always worked hard,” he said. “It’s good to see the hard work paying off.”
A crowded spring outfield has thinned with a series of cuts and Smith remains standing. He’s heading north with the club. A late arrival didn’t hurt him.
Prospects were sent out. Smith, wearing his silver emoji necklace - smiley face with tongue sticking out that his mother gave to him for luck - is expected to be at Yankee Stadium on Thursday.
“Like I was saying earlier, as long as I have a jersey there’s always a chance,” he said, “so I always believe I’m playing for a spot on the team.
“The guys are awesome. They’ve welcomed me in with open arms since the first day I came in here. It’s my first time on a new team, so I didn’t know what to expect, and it’s been pretty good so far.”
Dylan Bundy capped off his spring by allowing four runs and nine hits over 4 2/3 innings. He got his pitch count up to 82, including 56 strikes.
The Mets’ Jeff McNeil homered off Bundy with one out in the fifth to reduce the Orioles lead to 5-4. A ground ball ended Bundy’s day and he’s now waiting for his regular season debut Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
Bundy has allowed 19 runs and 36 hits in 21 2/3 innings this spring. Is the right-hander where he needs to be for the start of the season?
“Absolutely,” he said. “Finished the spring training healthy. That’s the main goal. Today I was mainly working on the changeup. I threw a lot more than I normally would in a game, and I was really happy with it. Gave up a homer, but for the most part I was happy with the shape of it today.
“Today we were trying to get up to 80 (pitches) and I think we got to at least 82, 83, so that’s a good thing. Getting the pitch count up, even though it was only 4 2/3, that’s not ideal, but yeah, feel good and feel ready for the season.”
The rotation is a bit of a mess, with Alex Cobb likely to go on the injured list and the Orioles needing to get creative, with openers and other types of bullpen games perhaps on the horizon.
“It’s unfortunate for Cobby,” Bundy said. “I think that’s the second time now. Who knows? I think he’s going to throw tomorrow or something. He said he doesn’t feel it at all, so we’ll just have to play it by ear and be ready when it’s my day to pitch.”
Bundy won’t apply extra pressure to work deeper into games and try to save the bullpen.
“I don’t think of it that way,” he said. “As a starter, you always want to try to throw nine innings if you can. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen, so you just try to go out there and compete and leave the game with a lead and go deep in the ballgame.”
Hanser Alberto gave the Orioles a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the eighth with a two-out RBI single.
John Means gave up home runs to J.D. Davis in the seventh and David Thompson in the eighth and the score was tied 6-6.
Chris Davis hit a two-run homer and struck out before exiting.
Update: Pedro Araujo surrendered a three-run homer to Dominic Smith with two outs in the ninth inning and the Orioles lost to the Mets 9-7 to finish 12-17-3 in the Grapefruit League.
Earlier in the day and out of view, Alex Cobb played catch on one of the back fields and said that he felt good.
“It really went well,” said manager Brandon Hyde.
Hyde won’t completely shut the door on Cobb avoiding the injured list, though he said nothing has changed at the moment. The Orioles are expected to announce their final roster moves later this afternoon to get down to 25 players.
Smith had another impressive day with the Orioles and will be in New York.
“He’s swung the bat really well since we picked him up,” Hyde said. “He’s competing at the plate and he’s driving the baseball. Yeah, it’s been unbelievably impressive and I hope he continues to swing it like this as we go north.
“I haven’t seen much of him. I’ve seen his track record and what he’s done in Toronto and the minor leagues, so for him to come out and juice some balls the way he has has been a pleasant surprise.”
Bundy allowed four runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings to close out his spring with a 7.89 ERA.
“I think he got his work in,” Hyde said. “That’s the main thing. He got his pitch count up. I don’t think he was as sharp as he’d like to be. Came off the field feeling healthy and got his pitch count up.”
Hyde’s first spring training as a major league manager is behind him. Camp is closing and now the games are going to count.
“I think the vibe in here is really good,” he said. “I think the guys have played hard in camp. I think there’s been a great energy level in camp. I think we’re continuing to get more talent in our organization, so I think that there’s a lot of positive things you can take from these last six weeks.”